Is Ristretto Less Caffeine?

Coffee is getting more and more attention as there is a lot of people that now enjoy its wide range of types, each with a different distinct taste. From dusk to dawn, you’ll find people sipping a cup of coffee. Today, we are going to focus on Ristretto to better understand what makes it unique and flavorful, and at the same time, we will answer the question, Is Ristretto Less Caffeine? 

Ristretto has less caffeine than espresso. Ristretto serving size is 20ml (0.67oz) on average, and it contains around 33mg of caffeine, while espresso contains 64mg of caffeine on 1oz serving. The reduced extraction time produces a less bitter and less caffeinated liquid per ounce.

Most coffee drinkers are not familiar with the Ristretto, as it is not that common but it is slowly gaining popularity. Ristretto is a concentrated variation of espresso or more generally, it is the shorter version of an espresso. But wait, just because it’s shorter, it doesn’t mean that it has less to offer! It uses less water which equates to a smaller drink and will be anything from 0.50 Oz – 1 Oz (15ml-30ml). 

How much caffeine is in a Ristretto?

A ristretto is an option for the ones looking for a quick hot drink with a concentrated shot of caffeine and who want to avoid the classic bitterness from the regular espresso shot. Most, if not all, of our decisions, have consequences, so going for a sweeter shot has its price. In this particular case, the price is caffeine amount.

As a general rule, a Ristretto shot has 33 milligrams of caffeine (20 milliliters / 0.67 ounces of drink). Due to the grounded coffee to water ratio of this particular recipe, the Ristretto shot should be a bold, sweet and balanced shot compared to the regular espresso or the lungo.

The best of both worlds could be obtained by having a Double Shot Ristretto – 66 miligrams of caffeine on a sweet bold shot 🙂

The average caffeine intake is around 165 mg a day. A shot of Ristretto has a little bit less caffeine compared to a regular shot of Espresso since it is shorter. For most healthy adults, up to 400 mg of caffeine, a day is safe; however, a person’s sensitivity to caffeine varies. If you are experiencing headaches, anxiety, or restlessness after drinking a cup of coffee, you might want to look into your caffeine intake and possibly consult a specialist. 

Have you ever wondered if ordering more coffee is going to be better? The answer is no and this is where Ristretto comes in—quality over quantity. Ristretto has a concentrated flavor; its taste is sweeter and less bitter due to the shorter extraction time. 

If you are not drinking a ristretto, but still want to know how much caffeine is good for you per day, here you can find our article about it.

What is Ristretto? 

In the Italian language, Ristretto means restricted and in terms of coffee, it refers to a short shot of espresso which is around 30 ml from a double basket. Ristretto is prepared similarly to espresso; however, the water is half and while the amount of coffee is similar, a finer grind is used to slow its extraction. This variation in water and extraction time produces three distinct differences between Ristretto and espresso being: caffeine level, taste, and quantity. 

Below are some points on how Ristretto differ from other types:

  • More concentrated—the first part of the extraction is the most concentrated; therefore, being a shorter shot, Ristretto is far more concentrated than a longer brew
  • Different balance—different chemical compounds dissolve at different rates. Ristretto contains faster-extracting compounds; therefore having its own unique balance 
  • Fewer Total Extracts—fewer coffee compounds are extracted into a Ristretto, like caffeine

If you are looking for a strong coffee such as Cortado, click here to better understand how strong Cortado is and to learn more about this drink. 

What makes a Ristretto Special?

Distinct balanced taste, shorter extraction time, finer coffee grind, and smaller volume of water used are just some of the many elements that make Ristretto special. This special process leads to a brew that produces a sweeter, more concentrated flavor which offers minimal to no bitterness at all since Ristretto has an overall shorter pull than an Espresso. 

Compared to espresso, Ristretto has more caffeine—hence stronger. Also, Ristretto has a lot of health benefits which include boosting your immune system and reducing stress. 

Are ristretto shots stronger?

As a general rule, Ristretto shots are lighter and sweeter than regular espresso shots. Ristretto should be sweet and bold, compared to a regular espresso shot that is a bitter drink. Brewing a Ristretto should only extract sweetness, and acidic notes; while an espresso will extract also bitterness.

There are two methods on how to make a Ristretto and these are:

Traditional and by far, the Best Method

This method requires brewing 30 ml of coffee over the same pour time as a normal espresso shot. A traditional espresso uses approximately 14 grams of coffee for a double espresso. Below is the step-by-step procedure:

  • Adjust your grind as you will need it finer than you do for a traditional espresso since you want to slow down the pour rate of the extraction
  • Dispense around 14 grams of coffee into your basket (you may adjust it to your preference)
  • Prepare as usual
  • You will need to time your extraction, a 20ml of liquid should come out in around 25 seconds 

Shortcut Method

This method is for people and baristas who own certain equipment like automatic espresso machines with pressurized filters since they don’t have enough control needed to utilize the traditional method. 

Below is how it is done: 

  • Make sure that your grind is as fine as possible for the machine that you will be using
  • Tamp as usual
  • Start your extraction and let it run until you have 30mls of coffee for a double Ristretto

This method is going to give you an espresso that has been stopped halfway, so it will not be as concentrated compared to a true Ristretto. 

Can it be created using Specialty Coffee? 

Let’s understand the fundamentals of a specialty coffee. Commonly referred to as third-wave coffee, specialty coffee is not your ordinary coffee—it is made from higher quality beans which are produced by both innovative and sustainable processes. It is better than former waves of coffee. Specialty coffees are processed with a high level of attention and care; starting from picking, sorting, and even shipping process.

Specialty coffee provides a particular experience along with an immersive flavor so the answer to can Ristretto be created using specialty coffee is a YES! You will not only be able to create Ristretto by using specialty coffee, but it will also be much better compared to using first and second-wave coffee. The taste will be uniquely appealing and satisfying since you are using the finest ingredients. 

It is important to highlight that there are 3 parts to an extraction to create an Espresso:

  1. The first few seconds of the extraction of an Espresso, what you are pulling out is the acidity and saltiness of the drink. 
  2. In the next few seconds, in the middle of the extraction, most of the sweetness of the drink comes off.
  3. In the end, the last few seconds of the extraction will be the bitter notes of the drink started to come out.

Due to the reduced time and cutting the final few seconds of the extraction, using specialty coffee for a Ristretto will produce a flavor that will highlight the sweet notes of your coffee. 

If you would like to know more about specialty coffee and/or generally want to understand what makes a coffee unique and compelling, click here to be redirected to our specialty coffee article. 

Drinks that compete with a Ristretto: American, Espresso, and Lungo. 

We’re going to look at the three common rivals of Ristretto and what they have to offer, taste, and caffeine content. 

Let’s start with American, this coffee type also comes from an espresso shot; however, it differs in the ingredients. To put it simply, American coffee is simply an espresso with added hot water but it gives the drink strength similar to a traditional coffee—with a distinct taste. For a serving size of 12 fl oz, an American coffee has around 154 mg of caffeine which is very high, which makes it ideal for people who like their coffee strong. It has a full body and richer taste.

Second, on our list is Espresso; it is the shot we are most often used to drinking at our local café or coffee shop. Espresso is the most concentrated form of coffee, having a thick texture. For a serving of 12 fl oz, an Espresso shot has around 77 mg of caffeine which is moderate, ideal for coffee lovers. Espresso has a well-rounded, roasty flavor.

Last on our list is Lungo, which is an Italian word for long. It is not as strong as a traditional Ristretto but bypassing more hot water through the espresso machine, additional flavor compounds will be dissolved. Compared to Ristretto, the taste is much more subdued but while Lungo is less strong—it is much bitter. For a serving of 12 fl oz, an Espresso shot has around 95 mg of caffeine which is also strong but mostly misleading because of its blander flavor which is a sign of a lighter beverage. 

I got to say, coffee is definitely satisfying and rewarding, but at the same time, knowing exactly what type you want can be daunting to learn. Now that you have a deeper understanding of how Ristretto works and what makes it special, you will be able to better order it as well as try out other types including American and Lungo. 


Charlie McFarlane

Specialty Coffee Enthusiast. Hungry for knowledge in the art and science behind specialty coffee and decided to document my journey, while sharing it with the public. More than 10 baristas were interviewed; over 21 farms were visited across 5 countries. Almost 100 Coffee Shops. Bean of choice: Pacamara. Preferred coffee country: Panama. Preferred Brewing Method: Aeropress. Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

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